Blades overtime triumph puts a slight damper on Raiders home opener

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Saskatoon Blades forward Ryan Hughes fires a shot that would prove to be the overtime winner Friday night.

On a night where the Prince Albert Raiders celebrated their success from the 2018-19 season, the Saskatoon Blades had the last laugh.

Overage forward Ryan Hughes completed a three-point evening by scoring the game-winning goal just 17 seconds into overtime Friday as the Blades picked up a 3-2 victory and ended a six-game losing streak at the Art Hauser Centre that dated back to March 2018.

“This is always a tough place to play in,” Hughes said. “It’s nice for us to get our first win here after not getting one last season, but we know that they’ll want to get one back from us tomorrow in Saskatoon.”

Hughes, who had assists on goals by Tristen Robins and Scott Walford in regulation, silenced the crowd of 3,108 on the only shot of the extra frame as he wired a shot over the left shoulder of Boston Bilous.

“Scott and I actually talked about that play before overtime,” Hughes said. “I saw a forward (Cole Fonstad) skating backwards and I went out wide to get around him. I took a shot and ended up going in.

“We started off a little slow and we knew that they would come out with a bit of a jump after the banner raising. We also knew that we had to be better in the final two periods and I thought we did that.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
The Prince Albert Raiders watch on as their WHL championship banner is unveiled at the Art Hauser Centre Friday.

The Blades victory won’t be the lasting memory for Raiders fans from Friday’s home opener, as the team unveiled their regular season champions, East Division champions, Eastern Conference champions and league champions banners during the opening ceremonies.

“Our returning guys played like champions and our new guys played well also after watching the banner raising and all of the emotions that go with it,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“It was a good game that could have gone either way. I thought we deserved a better fate, but we can’t be too disappointed about tonight.”

Aliaksei Protas and Landon Kosior scored for the hosts, who received a 15-save showing from Bilous.

Kosior’s goal, which was his first in the WHL, was an impressive one as he went bar-down on Blades netminder Nolan Maier.

“Landon’s a smart player,” Habscheid said. “He’s got some moxie and he thinks the game really well.

“He’s also a good passer and I think he’s going to be a strong player for us going forward.”

Walford and Robins had a goal and an assist each for the Blades, while Maier stopped 18 shots.

The two sides will square off again Saturday at 7 p.m. in Saskatoon for their first meeting of the season at the SaskTel Centre.

Post-Game Notes

In addition to the banner raising and the debut of a new video score clock, Friday’s opening ceremonies allowed Raiders fans to bid farewell to captain Brayden Pachal, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the Vegas Golden Knights earlier in the day.

Pachal, who had went undrafted the last three seasons, will report to training camp for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves early next week.

Landon Kosior became the first Raiders blueliner to score his first career goal in a season opener since Luke Fritshaw in 2002-03.

Unlike Kosior, who suited up for his first WHL game Friday, Fritshaw had 17 assists the year before in 64 games

Prior to Friday, the Blades last victory at the Art Hauser Centre was on March 16, 2018 in a 2-1 affair that also served as the Raiders’ home finale.

Blades forward Eric Florchuk left the game in the first period after being on the receiving end of a hit from Justin Nachbaur.

His status for Saturday’s contest is unknown.

Zack Hayes, Jakob Brook and Cohner Saleski did not dress for the Raiders on Friday, while the Blades scratched Parker Malchuk, Charlie Wright, Brandon Lisowsky, Riley McKay and Braden Plaschewsky.

Friday’s Scores

  • Winnipeg 3 Brandon 2 (Michal Teply – One Goal and One Assist)
  • Tri-City 4 Everett 2 (Sasha Mutala – One Goal and Three Assists)
  • Spokane 4 Kamloops 3 (Jake McGrew – Two Goals)
  • Medicine Hat 4 Lethbridge 3 (Ryan Chyzowski Shootout Winner – Carl Tetachuk – 48 Saves)
  • Vancouver 5 Prince George 3 (Owen Hardy – Two Assists)
  • Regina 3 Moose Jaw 2 (Ty Kolle – Two Goals and One Assist)

Around the WHL

Saskatoon Blades head coach Mitch Love will be the bench boss for Team WHL during the CIBC Canada/Russia Series, where he will be assisted by Marc Habscheid of the Prince Albert Raiders and Dave Struch of the Regina Pats.

Those games will be held in Saskatoon and Prince Albert on Nov. 13 and 14.

One-time Raiders prospect Davin Griffin, who was dealt to the Prince George Cougars last week, signed a standard player agreement with the BC Division side Friday and made his WHL debut later that evening against the Vancouver Giants.

The 17-year-old from Regina was a fifth round pick by the Raiders in 2017 and is coming off of a 46-point season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Saskatoon Contacts.

Two former Raiders have found new homes for the upcoming campaign as Loeden Schaufler will suit up for the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints and Curtis Meger will be in between the pipes in U Sports for his hometown Regina Cougars.

Saturday’s Schedule

  • Brandon vs. Winnipeg – 6:30 p.m. (The Ice’s first game in Winnipeg)
  • Regina vs. Moose Jaw – 7 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Portland – 7 p.m.
  • Edmonton vs. Red Deer – 7 p.m.
  • Prince Albert vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Swift Current – 7 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Seattle – 7 p.m.
  • Lethbridge vs. Medicine Hat – 7:30 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Prince George – 8 p.m.
  • Victoria vs. Everett – 8 p.m.
  • Spokane vs. Kelowna – 8 p.m.